Ever Deeper and Wider in Hope
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
In wonderfully spacious moments of listening, I am sometimes gifted to sense that all is woven together, that all hearts beat together in the One. Surely all is well and all will be well. I trust the Spirit, and I abound in hope. From that deep place, I look around and see breathtaking beauty in our world and incredible acts of love. We are blessed to witness to the glow of sunrise, the reds and golds of autumn, fresh mountain streams, acts of kindness and the touch of a loved one.
Yet it’s not always so easy. We also see tragedy, horrific violence, and heartbreak. Species are vanishing, our oceans are dying, economic disparity grows, justice is not equal, and our leaders seem ineffective. How can I continue to hold the sense that all is well, that all is one?
Thich Nhat Hanh says that the contemplative stance is “looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now.” That’s easier to do when I like what I see, when I’m looking at beauty and love and right action. But sometimes it’s very difficult to look deeply at “the very here and now”; I am overwhelmed, and I look away.
Of course looking away can be an appropriate response to an overwhelming amount of news reported on a single tragic story, for example. Looking away is an appropriate response when we need to pause to pray for the situation or discern what is invited next. But I sometimes look away because I simply don’t want to look deeply at life as it is. It’s too painful. I don’t know how to fix it. If I really looked, I’d need to do something.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing….” IN believing. It is only as I believe, that I have the capacity to hold the pain without the ability to fix it. It is as I trust the Spirit that I can be guided to what is mine to do. As I believe in the power of the Spirit, I can look at life as it is in the here and now with my spiritual heart open wide enough to see and hold both the beauty and the brokenness, the joy and the pain.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Joshua DuBois wrote about previously unreported details of President Obama’s visit to the families of Sandy Hook victims. For hours, two families at a time, the President went from group to group, hugging parents, inviting them, “Tell me about your son…. Tell me about your daughter….” Over and over, writes DuBois, the President listened, looked directly into the eyes of the shattered parents and offered support and prayer. I know little of the President’s spiritual practices or deeply held beliefs. But his willingness to look gently and fully into the faces of pain models what is possible for us.
Of course my rational mind immediately asks, “Why would I want to look at pain? Why would I open to suffering?” Richard Rohr answers that pain is our teacher, the only thing strong enough to “grab our attention and defeat the ego’s dominance.” Our egos are always trying to arrange the world the way we want it to be. Of Jesus and Buddha, Rohr writes, “Pain is the foundational teacher of transformation for both of them, which led to compassion in Buddhist language and love in Christian language.”
Opening our spiritual hearts deeper and wider to hold the pain we witness daily frees us for the love and compassion that is invited in each moment, enables us to let go our mental quick fixes, and invites us to surrender to what is ours to do in God’s unfolding dream. When the God of hope fills us with the joy and peace in believing, we look deeply at life as it really is; there is no need to turn away.
When our spiritual hearts are wide open, we can get take a stand day after day for causes that seem beyond our capacity, and we can work for results that will not come to bear fruit in our lifetime. And by the power of the Holy Spirit—not by our